May 24, 2012
By Raul Alcantar
Today we visited Tokyo DisneySea, Disney’s amusement park located right next to Tokyo Bay. Similar to Disney’s California adventure, the park offers restaurants and attractions that incorporate original Disney characters at a minimal level. Before entering the park, we met with Tokyo Disney Resort’s directors and managers who presented information on the demographics and design of the park. What interested me the most though was how the company reaches out to a completely different audience compared to the US. As a student interested in the entertainment aspect of the company, I wondered how it attracted anime and manga fans who are loyal to the culture they grew up with. Two examples that really fascinated me were the localization of Stitch, the alien creature from the movie Lilo and Stitch, and Fireball, a 3-D anime-style show broadcasted only in Japan. Stitch was localized by Japan with the creation of his own anime show, following his adventures in Tokyo with new Japanese friends. Thus, Walt Disney Japan adapted this character to fit with the Japanese culture. Fireball was created by Japanese artists for a Japanese audience under the brand of Disney, which was a shock to me because I believed that Disney would have encouraged Tokyo to promote the original Disney characters. These examples demonstrate that even though that even though Disney has worked hard to attract multiple audiences with the original cast, it’s almost impossible to infiltrate the barrier of anime. Anime and manga developed as forms of expression after World War II, becoming an essential part of Japanese lifestyle. Therefore, Disney, along with America, will find it difficult to influence this aspect of their lives.
The amusement park portrays the US in the “American Waterfront” during early 20th century. Nonetheless, I saw the entire park as an immersion experience into what the Japanese people believe the US to look like. During the presentation, Julio Badin, Managing Director of Park Operations, informed us that the customers wanted to see more of America at these parks. Shawn Montague, Manager of Industrial Engineering, also believed that the parks served as an escape from the rushed and compacted life of the city. For instance, once we entered the park, I noticed that I almost forgot that we were in Japan (ignoring the language, of course). The signs were not as extravagant as the ones in the subway, there was open space everywhere, and a many of the instructions were in English. Before coming to this park, I was expecting something completely different. I thought Japanese culture would be more infused into the park, but I barely saw it there. Still, DisneySea was amazing. The rides and scenery were much better in my opinion than in California. I can say Japan is a lot more than what I expected it to be, proving that there are various components to an entire culture culture that many of us ignore. I will make sure to take advantage of everything on the trip.
By Johanna Becerra
Today we went to Tokyo Disney Sea; we woke up bright and early to head to Disney Sea. By 7am we were on our way there. Upon getting there we were received by Janet Nagamine, who took us to our meeting room where we had several presentations by Disney executives Jay, Shawn, Julio Badin and Dendo-san. These presentations were helpful for us to understand the way Disney operates in Japan.
At Disney Sea, America is represented by a statue of Christopher Columbus, an “ All American Hot Dog” stand, a department store, and finally with red, white and blue streamers with stars on their poles. From visiting Disney Sea I was able to see how Disney views the rest of the world; Disney respects the rest of the world, their traditions and their values. They don’t try to change them; instead they have a good connection with them.
Disney Sea is much different that any other Disney park I have been to, in particular to Disney California Adventure (its American counterpart). Disney Sea is 121 acres while Disney California is only 60. So the size itself is one of the biggest differences. As far as park layout and theme, Disney Sea is one of a kind; it has 7 ports each introducing a different city and culture to the audience. This Disney park overall exceeded my expectations there is definitely more Disney spirit in Japan than in the US.